Josephine Beavers - A Tribute to the Great American Songbook with the Ed Vodicka Big Band featuring Steve LaSpina, Tony Tedesco & Mike Smith - 1/21/20Tuesday, January 21 2020 6:00 PM Doors / 8:00 PM Start
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Josephine Beavers - A Tribute to the Great American Songbook with the Ed Vodicka Big Band featuring Steve LaSpina, Tony Tedesco & Mike Smith - 1/21/20
at City Winery Chicago
- 6:00 PM
- 8:00 PM
Chicago’s own Josephine Beavers makes her City Winery debut, with a tribute to the Great American Songbook and 20th century pop music classics. Accompanied by the world-class Ed Vodicka Big Band, and featuring bassist Steve LaSpina, drummer Tony Tedesco and saxophonist Mike Smith, Beavers sings selections from her Capitol Studios album, "Prime Time," breathing fresh, new energy into the works of George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jimmy Van Heusen and other pillars in the pantheon of popular song.
With “Prime Time,” Josephine crosses that bridge with a distinctive, timeless voice and preserves the hallowed sounds of American standards while presenting them in a fresh contemporary light.
You might not know her yet but listen to “Prime Time” and that will change. Because Josephine imbues her singing with enough love, depth, and intimacy to make it seem as if you’re not so much listening to a recording but rather sharing time with a friend. And after just a few moments acquainting yourself with her timeless voice, you’ll quickly come to know how “Prime Time” suits a musical mood the way a silk glove slides onto a lady’s hand.
The need to sing enveloped Josephine early. While attending a jazz concert at Washington D.C.’s Howard Theater at age three, a family friend and vocalist had to actually restrain her from running to join the featured performer on stage. “She seemed to be calling to me,” Josephine recalls. “With her sequined dress, the crowd cheering her on, and especially her sound, I didn’t simply want to be with her on stage, I wanted to be her. I thought she was a queen.”
The family friend and vocalist that kept little Josephine from storming the stage was the great jazz and R&B artist Al Hibler.
The featured performer that night was indeed royal. It was Ella Fitzgerald.
Throughout her childhood, Josephine seemed to remain surrounded by jazz royalty. As the daughter of Laura Joy – an established jazz singer of the Washington DC club circuit – she was raised in the standard’s heyday watching her mother share the stage with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, The Charlie Byrd Trio, and other jazz immortals.
“To me these weren’t legends, but just part of the family,” Josephine says. It was a family, however, that was nurturing in Beavers not only a life-long love of music, but an indelible legacy to perform it as well.
Driven by her legacy throughout her formative years, Josephine performed in small groups and modeled herself after inspirations including Peggy Lee, Lena Horne, and Mel Torme – all strong contrasts to the winds of change dictated by Motown, the British invasion, and other contemporary influences. But having experienced a profession where rewards were rarely financial, Josephine’s mother encouraged her to explore more conventional ambitions. Subsequently, Josephine went to college, married, and raised four children.
“I took motherhood very seriously,” Josephine says, “and it rewarded me with many blessings as well.” Beavers notes that although she couldn’t actively care for both a family and a singing career, motherhood nurtured a love for the jazz tradition that today’s younger singers simply have not had the maturity to acquire.
Josephine still squeezed in time to perform. She captured hearts at major corporate events, opened for The Count Basie Orchestra ensemble at Chicago’s historic Regal Theater, and toured as a special guest artist with the McDonald’s All-American High School Jazz Band. And, at every place she sang, more than chords of music and ovations were being struck. McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, for example, had a standing request that Josephine sing at his lavish birthday parties. There was also the interaction with longtime friend, Ed Vodicka.
As an accomplished arranger, pianist, and music producer of radio, TV, and national concert tours, Vodicka was eager to produce an album that wrapped his penchant for rich orchestral phrasing and jazz scholarship around Josephine’s classic sound. But it was an ambition that would have to wait.
“Loving anything to its fullest takes one’s all,” Josephine admits. “As much as I loved music, I was completely committed to seeing my children grow up with proper parenting. My time to sing would wait.” Josephine’s patience paid off. When her children entered adulthood, her affiliation with Vodicka matured as well. And they formed a partnership that began making not just music, but magic.